Outlook to add Facebook, social networking

Office 2010 Beta users can a patch that integrates e-mail with social media

Microsoft really likes Facebook, apparently. After experimenting with social networking once before in November, in a move that many considered to be too ambitious, the big M is now scaling back those plans while still looking to make social networking a part of the upcoming Outlook e-mail program.

Starting today, beta users of Office 2010 can download a patch to add the Outlook Social Connector to their Outlook clients. Initially, users will be able to view the activities of their LinkedIn contacts in the Outlook inbox. Microsoft said similar applications for Facebook and MySpace will be ready when the new Outlook ships in June.

According to Microsoft, Office 2010 Beta users must install the OSC 32-bit Beta in order to successfully use the social network providers currently available. Also, they cannot install the 32-bit OSC Beta on the Outlook 2010 Beta 64-bit or Office 2010 Home and Business Beta.

The new beta adds an additional window to users’ screens when reading an e-mail. By clicking on that pane – called the People Pane -- the program tells of that contact’s most recent social networking updates, assuming the person who sent the e-mail set it up to do so on their Outlook client.

In a way, this new update turns Outlook into its own version of a social networking site. For example, say two users have documents on a SharePoint server. When one user e-mails another, updates they have made to documents will be listed in the social networking panel. That’s probably one of the most useful features of the beta so far, assuming an office is fully integrated and employees are sharing documents.

A Microsoft vice president has expressed some concern to the Associated Press that people might see the new application as a big time waster in the office, but he insists that it will actually save time and resources.

I’m not sure about that, but I do think it may force people like me into the social media realm, albeit kicking and screaming, I assure you.

There are potential privacy concerns, as Google found out last week, when it melded Gmail and its Buzz social networking site, and people complained that it followed everyone in their address books.

And, of course, linking your e-mail client automatically and directly to some social networking sites, which are known to be havens for viruses and hackers, might cause its own problems beyond just lost productivity.

But that’s a discussion for another day.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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